Historically, the FIFA World Cup is a
great arena in which brands expose
themselves in order to win the battle
for consumers’ minds and hearts.
The 2014 World Cup held in Brazil represented an even higher expectation for sponsors, given the possibility of local activities that could bring consumers closer to the brands.
A qualitative workshop conducted in late 2012 by Millward Brown Brazil showed that ‘passion’ is the essence and the basic cultural value associated with soccer. This ‘passion’ permeates and explains the unexplainable in a world where fans irrationally fight for their teams and thousands of beliefs and superstitions surround coaches, players and fans.
The setting before the World Cup brought a rather dubious mood of extreme optimism; on the one hand – we are the hosts, and the usual big party could be even bigger – on the other hand, a mood of pessimism and doubt – demonstrations on the streets, negative news about the preparation and urban infrastructures.
The excitement started to heat up when the National team began to win their games. “Brazil as a team replaces Brazil as a country” summarized the mood, according to a participant in a qualitative research conducted after the event. Then joy, optimism and celebration took over the streets and the population.
However, not for long, when Brazil was eliminated from the championship, hopes were shattered and all those negative feelings that may have been concealed re-surfaced. It is part of the process of handling overwhelming passion and emotions: one can always find a scapegoat but not necessarily find an objective reason.
Sharing the emotion
Unlike previous World Cup events, social networks played an extremely significant role in spreading the predominant mood, enhancing both the positive as well as the negative feelings. Consumers’ multiscreen reality was present in the bi-directional communication of brands and sponsors: brands songs/ jingles took over the streets, stadiums and fans as if they were their own war cries, rubbing off on the population.
Fanfests organized by the government created in every city a place for large crowds to gather, and an explosion of both joy and sadness. This mood was translated into these words from a participant of the qualitative research: “My friend invited me to the Fanfest, I started to get excited about the World Cup and the thrill of having the Cup in my home, and I realized how much I was privileged. I was so excited, sending pictures, videos and calling other friends. I saw a lot of people singing on the streets and posting on Facebook a part of the song from the ad.”
Criticism and negative feelings also spread very quickly. And following this trend, all elements that participated either directly or indirectly in the event were included.
In this up and down of emotions, the question that remains is about the effects on the brands’ perceptions. The study “Does World Cup Sponsorship Pay?” was conducted by Millward Brown’s Neuroscience department, with Brazilian and English people, to check the actual feelings about the World Cup and the association with the sponsoring brands using neuroscience tools. The results, different from usual, showed that Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s and Visa were quickly recalled as sponsors of the event for their tradition and consistency in supporting sporting events.
Moreover, there is effectively an implicit association between the attitude towards the event and the perception of the sponsoring brand, thus the negative emotion may represent a potential risk to the sponsoring brands, especially those maintaining a stronger, more frequent association with the event.
The research also showed that the population does not identify the various levels of sponsorship correctly; they cannot distinguish the brand sponsoring the event, the shirt, the team, the broadcast, etc. Also, the most successful sponsoring brands are those that provide consumers with a meaningful and different experience.
The search for a meaningful difference is the great challenge for the ‘official’ sponsors since their direct competitors, such as Mastercard and Nike, are also present in sporting events, acting concurrently and being indirectly favored.
Brands that carried out activities at the stadiums showed very positive results since they embodied the communication by offering the possibility of an experience that added to the intended value of the brand positioning.